Zags WBB move to 19-2 with 78-61 win over Santa Clara

Zags WBB move to 19-2 with 78-61 win over Santa Clara

The No. 18/17 Gonzaga women’s basketball team pulled away from Santa Clara for a 78-61 win in front of a sold-out crowd at the McCarthey Athletic Center Saturday.

The Zags’ (19-2, 8-1 West Coast Conference) Zykera Rice led all scorers with 18 points. She also grabbed eight boards. Chandler Smith recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Jill Townsend had nine of her 14 points in the first half. LeeAnne Wirth and Jenn Wirth added 10 points each.

“Today was a depth game,” head women’s basketball coach Lisa Fortier said. “Depth game, meaning we had double-digits from two of our bench players, and tons of minutes from players that we don’t normally have to rely on. Jessie [Loera] had a phenomenal game off the bench…It’s nice to get some of our bench players having the success that they had today.”

Gonzaga led Santa Clara (10-10, 3-6 WCC) on the glass 38-32 and outscored the Broncos’ bench 29-23. As a squad, the Zags outscored Santa Clara 42-28 in the second half.

“We knew there were going to be gaps in their zone, but we were trying to finesse too much and we weren’t focusing on our finish,” head women’s basketball coach Lisa Fortier said. “We told them they needed to toughen up and finish around the basket. There was going to be a lot of contact.”

Santa Clara opened the scoring gates on its first attempt to take an early 2-0 lead, but a 7-0 run in favor of Gonzaga put GU out in front by five, 7-2. The Zags limited Santa Clara to 12 first quarter points to take a six-point lead after the first 10 minutes, 18-12.

Gonzaga maintained its six-point lead 90 seconds into the second, but hot shooting from the Broncos quickly cut the lead to two (22-20) with 6:39 to go. A 10-2 Santa Clara run over the next three minutes put the Broncos in front by five (30-25), but three straight three’s courtesy of Townsend gave the Zags a 34-33 lead with 1:33 to go. Smith closed out the scoring for the Zags, sinking two from the charity stripe to give GU a 36-33 lead at the half.

The Bulldogs finished the half perfect from the line (11-of-11), dished out nine assists on 10 made field goals and controlled the glass, 20-16.

The Bulldogs picked up their offense in the third, shooting 42.9 percent from the floor for 22 points. The Zags continued to get to the line, hitting 10-of-12 attempts in the third to pull away from the Broncos. With 4:27 remaining in the quarter, the Zags held a four-point advantage (49-45). Twelve seconds later, Jenn Wirth hit a jumper that sparked a 9-2 run over the final minutes of the quarter to give the Zags a 58-47 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Gonzaga shot 50 percent from the floor in the fourth quarter and limited Santa Clara to 14 points off 41.7 percent shooting to pull away, 78-61.

Santa Clara was finished with three players in double-figures, led by Charise Holloway with 16 points while Tia Hay added 15 and Ashlyn Herlihy, 10.

Gonzaga begins a three-game road trip next week, beginning at Pacific on Jan. 31 at 7 p.m.